Is Ego Depletion Real? An Analysis of Arguments

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An influential line of research suggests that initial bouts of self-control increase the susceptibility to self-control failure (ego depletion effect). Despite seemingly abundant evidence, some researchers have suggested that evidence for ego depletion was the sole result of publication bias and p-hacking, with the true effect being indistinguishable from zero. Here, we examine (a) whether the evidence brought forward against ego depletion will convince a proponent that ego depletion does not exist and (b) whether arguments that could be brought forward in defense of ego depletion will convince a skeptic that ego depletion does exist. We conclude that despite several hundred published studies, the available evidence is inconclusive. Both additional empirical and theoretical works are needed to make a compelling case for either side of the debate. We discuss necessary steps for future work toward this aim.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)107-131
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2019

    Research areas

  • ego depletion, p-hacking, replicability crisis, self-control, self-regulation
  • Psychology